Twelve Under $20: More Great Gift Ideas for 2015
Looking for a gift that won't break your budget? Here are 12 under $20 – all great toys with small price tags, but still jam-packed with big play appeal.
Rogers Daytime (Dec 3, 2015)
No glue, no mess. A real favourite with both our kiddi testers and their parents, who love that the picture peels back a quarter section at a time so kids don't need to make it all in one sitting. Two different sets available, each with two projects: butterfly and flower, or rainbow and unicorn.
"I like to stick the pom poms on the sticky paper. I finished the unicorn and it looks very nice and the pom poms are very soft - like unicorns."
The casual, everyday look of this flat shoe wearing Barbie – stylish, yet practical - inspired our testers to play act real people scenarios from everyday life. At other times, the movie directing theme and accessories inspired imaginary scenarios as testers turned their playrooms into movie sets with Barbie directing the action.
"She doesn't have any fancy things - like singing or her costumes changing.... but I like this Barbie, especially her shoes. I like that she makes movies and it was fun using my Superhero Barbies for the movies."
Our testers loved this set of plain wooden planks and photo cards of suggested building ideas. There are no step-by-step instructions - kids just infer plank placement from the parts of the structure they can see. Our older testers enjoyed the 8+ version. Like real life engineering diagrams, cards in the 8+ set show three views (front, side and top) on diagrammatic drawings of the structure. Each set offers enriching, age-appropriate construction challenges that hone both brain and finger muscles, as well as patience.
"Some of the pictures were so easy, but some were so hard. I liked doing harder ones, but not too hard. Once, I made the dock! Then I pretended people were walking down the dock."
Our testers were intrigued that they could make real food from just water and powder. Of the different sets we tested, the doughnut making set was by far the favourite, and all our kid testers had fun making – then eating, these tiny treats.
"I love to bake and I usually help mom, but this time I did it all by myself. I made the doughnuts and I want to make more and more and more. They are so small and cute and I love to decorate them and then eat them in one bite!!"
Our testing families loved the fun illustrations of often quirky objects, and that matches are made from such a broad range of categories. A great family game.
"It's interesting and different...lots of random, unique categories and very different things like a bearded snake and a long nosed dragon. You have to call the category and you have to be fast....it's like Spot It!, but different because it has categories."
Dogs instead of people is a nice twist on this well-designed classic paper doll activity. Our testers enjoyed hours and hours of fun choosing outfits and making up stories about the dogs and why they are wearing the chosen clothes.
"We put on lots of fashion shows. The puppies are really cute and we liked dressing them up. I even put cheer leading clothes on my puppy!"
Even kids with little or no musical background can enjoy a quality musical experience as they play creatively with the musical phrasings, then listen to an orchestra perform their composition.
"You can make your own music, listen to it and even print it out. There are lots of cards to chose from and it's super easy to change just a few notes or your whole song. My favourite is making a title for my song and printing it out. I even tried playing piano with the music I made!"
Fun to make and pretty to wear. Our little testers loved wearing flowers in their hair when they went out, or just for playing dress up around the house. Includes everything needed for your child and three friends to make their own pretty flowered headpiece.
"I really liked making this crown and I feel really pretty when I wear it."
A unanimous favourite with our testing families. Prep your reflexes and watch for cards where the character is doing the correct action - then don't be the last player to copy it. Sound simple? It's amazing how easy (and fun) it is to get tripped up when the pressure is on!
"Nerve wracking and fun at the same time. It can be tricky to figure out what you are looking at and what you should do - the banker looks like a judge and confuses me every time!"
All the fun of the original games, but in a smaller more portable version. In fact, most of our testers prefer these micro versions to the original games.
"You have to pay attention because otherwise, it's game over! I like that it's small and the buttons are easy to push, and I can play it anywhere - even in the car, or in the dark."
Ryan (M9), commenting on Simon Micro
A quick, easy craft that looks great on your wall. Some testers were surprised that the unusual combinations of contrasting patterns work so well together – an important design lesson that may well influence their own future creativity.
"At first I thought all the different colours and patterns would clash, but all together they look fine. I like that I can personalize it by putting the stickers and accessories where I want, and how if you look at it sideways you see all the different layers, but when you look straight on, it's like 3D!"
Create unique looking jewelry using gauze-like mesh tubes filled with pretty beads. Fun to create, and both durable and pretty to wear. A huge favourite with our tween testers.
"Super easy to do and exciting to wear!! There were lots of beads and the mesh gives a nice look. I loved making them to match my tops and wear them to school."
Other Great Gifts Under $20
- My First Fun Felt Safari (3+, Creativity for Kids/Faber-Castell, $15.99)
- My First Sticky Mosaics® Princess #72742 (3+, The Orb Factory, $9.99)
- Sticky Mosaics® Sparkling Princess (4+, The Orb Factory Limited, $9.99)
- Sticky Mosaics® Sparkling Monsters (4+, The Orb Factory Limited, $9.99)
- Spot it! Numbers and Shapes Disney Frozen Olaf (we recommend for 4+, Blue Orange Games, $15.99)
- Sticky Mosaics® Pirate (5+, The Orb Factory, $16.99)
- Sticky Mosaics® Sticker Flip Frame Jewelry Box (5+, The Orb Factory, $16.99)
- PlushCraft Petal Pillow (5+, The Orb Factory, $16.99)
- PlushCraft Hedgehog Pillow (5+, The Orb Factory, $16.99)
- Sparkling Sun Jewels™ (5+, The Orb Factory, $14.99)
- Super Genius (5+ to 8+ sets, Blue Orange Games, $15.99)
- The Game of Life Junior Game (5+, Hasbro, $19.99)
- Draw 4: Dig for Dinos! (5+, Blue Orange Games, $$19.99)
- Just Add Milk (5+, Griddly Games, $16.50)
- Go Bong! (5+, Foxmind Games, $9.99)
- Thumb's Up! (6+, Blue Orange Games, $27.99)
- Fox's Party (6+, Zoch Verlag/Lion Rampant, $14.99)
- Bright Bead Boutique (7+, Creativity for Kids, $14.99)